CHICAGO - Ken "Hawk" Harrelson long ago decided as a broadcaster to be himself, speak his mind and not worry about what others thought.
When Harrelson was calling a White Sox game, no one ever had to wonder where his loyalties were, what he felt or how deeply he felt it.
Many loved him for that. Others - just as intensely - did not, and that divide only strengthened his bond with those who embraced him.
What might have been a formula for TV success, however, perhaps has not helped him amass support for the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award that thus far has proved elusive for the announcer who retired after the 2018 season.
It has been 13 years since Harrelson first was a finalist for the sport's high broadcasting honor.
Now 78, he's vying for it a fourth time in a field of eight that includes longtime Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes, with the selection committee of 15 due to announce its pick Dec. 11.
"Some of those voters I don't like, and I've told them that in the past about certain things," Hawk told the Tribune last year.
So, yeah. Harrelson's not exactly out there kissing babies (or giving interviews about the Frick award, for that matter) in the bid to join Harry Caray, Jack Brickhouse and Bob Elson as longtime Chicago voices honored in Cooperstown, N.Y.
His 42 years as an MLB broadcaster, including 33 with the White Sox as his "good guys," have been left to speak for themselves.
"I don't understand why he hasn't already got it just because of the service he's put in and his contribution to the game as a broadcaster," A.J. Pierzynski, a former Sox catcher-turned-broadcaster who's hardly a wallflower himself, said by phone.
"You walk around anywhere, not just in Chicago, and if people are talking about baseball, you'll hear (Hawk catchphrases such as) 'He gone' or 'You can put it on the board.'"
Jason Benetti, who succeeded Harrelson as the White Sox TV play-by-play voice, grew up enthralled and entertained by Harrelson and Tom "Wimpy" Paciorek.
"I can't speak for the entirety of Chicagoland, but I can speak for me and my friends and all of that and say that what Hawk said became our lexicon," Benetti said. "That hits me pretty deep in the heart."
In the end, of course, Benetti developed his own style. There's only one Hawk. But as for Benetti's passion, he believed that grew out of his formative years watching and listening to Harrelson.
"People nationally ding Hawk for, at the end of his career, being frustrated with a call and yelling at an umpire," Benetti said. "But this was a guy who absolutely loved baseball to the core and, frankly, as an ambassador for the game and a conveyance of the game, he brought the game to life. That's what you want out of somebody who's calling games."
It wouldn't have been Hawk without the squawk.
"Hawk is Hawk," Pierzynski said. "He's true to himself. Every team will say: 'Hey, our announcer is the best' or 'Our announcer is this' or 'Our announcer is that.' And look, they're all great in their own right. But ... there's nobody that I know that did it better than Hawk did. He will not apologize for the way he acted."
Among Harrelson's calling cards are nicknames (such as "The Big Hurt" for Hall of Famer Frank Thomas) and phrases he either coined (like "Get foul" when faced with a potential extra-base hit down the line) or reclaimed from baseball lore (like "can of corn" for an easy fly ball).
But fellow finalist Jacques Doucet also can stake a claim to his own vocabulary as the pioneering French-language announcer for the Expos and later the Blue Jays.
As for the decades-long bond Harrelson enjoyed with his fan base, that, too, can be said of the others up for the award, such as Mike Shannon, Joe Castiglione, Tom Hamilton, Dewayne Staats, Hughes and the late Ned Martin, who for a time was Harrelson's broadcast partner on Red Sox games.
Contributing to the logjam of deserving Frick candidates has been the Hall's decision in recent years to consider contemporary local team announcers only once every three years, with reviews of national voices and historic figures rounding out the cycle.
"Very deserving people like Bill King have died before they've won," Benetti said. "It's ridiculous, honestly."
King, a former A's announcer who passed away more than a decade earlier, was the winner three years ago. That's the last time Harrelson's group was considered, and he, Hughes, Doucet, Staats and Martin all were finalists then too.
It does not help that the Frick committee, which consists of the 11 living past winners and four journalist-historians, has named only a single winner annually year since doubling up in 1978, when the award was introduced with honors for Mel Allen and Red Barber.
For what it's worth, the Frick typically has bypassed former players such as Harrelson, who logged nine seasons in the majors with the Athletics, Senators, Red Sox and Indians.
Of 43 past recipients, only five have been former ballplayers. But with three still alive - Bob Uecker (2003), Tony Kubek (2009) and Tim McCarver (2012) - they make up 20% of the committee.
How Harrelson and his style has played with the voters is anyone's guess.
While some announcers reflexively flinch at being tagged a "homer," Harrelson embraced the role, figuring it tied him to his audience, which already was committed to the ballclub whether he was working for the White Sox, Red Sox or Yankees.
"He's just Hawk," Pierzynski said. "He's a real person. He doesn't try to change who he is, and I think that's why some people don't like him and some people do."
That and all the memories, nicknames and catchphrases he has given audiences will be his true legacy, no matter how this Frick vote goes.
"I hope Hawk knows how many people he's touched very deeply regardless of how this thing goes," Benetti said. "I just hope he realizes his impact doesn't come by golden microphone or whatever they give you."
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